Water Journal : Current August 2017
www.awa.asn.au 52 THINK GLOBAL, ACT LOCAL UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a framework through which the industry can place its efforts in a global context. “The main thing here is how we map the strategies of our organisations against the SDGs,” said Adam Lovell, executive director of the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA). In the context of water, Goal 6 (clean water and sanitation) is obvious, but he said all 17 SDGs have impacts across the industry. For example, organisations can commit to empowering women to contribute to SDG 5. And a key component of liveable cities, SDG 11, is urban water management. “Once you get past SDG 6, there are clear touch points with other industries,” Lovell said. “It’s good for Australia’s competitiveness as well; achieving the SDGs will provide a more liveable country, and it will provide impetus for the best and brightest from around the world to come and live here and help our country grow.” The Federal Government is the glue that binds these efforts together, but the SDGs also bring together the private and public sectors. “Now it’s a matter of leaders advertising their commitment to the global compact,” Lovell said. “We are gathering case studies about what organisations are doing here, so people have evidence about how this improves business.” On a global scale, the SDGs are an opportunity for the Australian water industry to tap into an international network and contribute their expertise across the APAC region. Many Australian utilities have twinning arrangements to facilitate knowledge sharing. “I think this is a real opportunity to try and get this debate going at the highest level,” said Shoalhaven Water’s Krogh. “The SDGs tend to be associated with developing countries, but if we look at it from a holistic perspective, that’s when we can engage at a high level to say this is not just a regional, state or national issue – it’s global.” EVEN WITHIN A SINGLE STATE THERE ARE DIFFERENT LEVELS OF ‘SECURITY’ FOR DIFFERENT WATER SUPPLY SYSTEMS. CARMEL KROGH, SHOALHAVEN WATER For example, the country still has some way to go in effectively engaging Indigenous communities in water management, as well as addressing ongoing issues with water quality in some rural and remote communities. “Although there has been significant policy progress, this hasn’t always been effectively implemented; further protections and a bigger focus on restoration are required,” said Schofield. TAKING THE LEAD A proactive approach to water security won’t happen by accident, said Krogh. It will only be possible if the water industry and policymakers are informed and agile enough to allow their thinking to change over time. “Any strategy to address water security needs built-in flexibility to adjust course and shift our thinking as more information is made available to us,” she said. The Australian water sector needs to continuously review the veracity of its water management systems and collectively identify the next critical steps forward, Schofield added. “Whether it’s increased customer focus, improving environmental stewardship or climate change forecasting ... politicians will respond to the urgent issues of the day,” he said. “When we look at water security in the long term, we need to determine where we want to be and what our future vision is, and then the steps we’ll need to take to get there.” Historically, investment in water infrastructure has come as a reaction to water shortages, but the industry has matured, allowing for more focus on prevention rather than cure. “We have better access to information on our water situation today, what it’s likely to be in coming weeks and months, and more available and integrated information that can be communicated to multiple users in different situations,” said Dr Robert Argent, assistant director for water information services for the Bureau of Meteorology. “Federal and State Governments can make use of the knowledge we have on demand and supply management.” Advancements like this make it easier to predict what will have the biggest impacts on water supply in the near future, but they also highlight the need for an integrated approach. “Water doesn’t always sit within prescribed boundaries. It’s a national thing and researchers, utilities, politicians, communities and other industry organisations need to have a partnership approach to meeting water security challenges,” Jayasuriya said. One thing everyone can agree on, though, is that water security is too important to leave off the agenda. As Argent said: “There’s a general realisation that water resources are not something we can have a great deal of disagreement about – it’s too important to us.” Water policy Attendees at the Ozwater’17 policy stream.
Current May 2017